How positive is your relationship with your thighs? I only ask because, this spring, it might need a little therapy – thigh-rapy, if you will – in preparation for the new short shape. Don’t shoot the (bike) messenger but it’s: cycling shorts.
The spring/summer 2019 shows contained enough to clothe a peloton. At Chanel, Fendi, Jacquemus, Jil Sander, Miu Miu, Roberto Cavalli and Stella McCartney, workout-ready shorts transformed catwalks across Europe into veritable velodromes. At Chanel – paired with jaunty tweed jackets and straw hats – they generated a madeleine moment: micro shorts appeared under Chanel couture dresses as recently as 2014, but many showgoers were instantly transported back to spring/summer 1991, when Linda Evangelista stalked the catwalk, surfboard under one arm, in a sequined blue evening jacket, door-knocker earrings and tight, tight, tight black shorts. Everywhere else? Cycling shorts served to add an aerodynamic burst of downtown cool to crisp tailored blazers and super-starched shirts.
In truth, the trend has been pedalling away on a low cadence for a few seasons. At the spring/summer 2018 shows, cycling shorts debuted beneath lacy puffball dresses at Saint Laurent, knitted sweaters at Dolce & Gabbana and sharp tailoring at Off-White. At the latter, designer Virgil Abloh namechecked Diana, Princess of Wales strolling round Sloane Square in her gym kit, Gucci bamboo-handled bag on her arm, as inspiration.
The shorts reached critical mass thanks to Instagram – more specifically, Kim Kardashian’s feed – where they garnered cultural cachet as the preferred method of showing off toned legs and abs. By the time summer 2018 got underway, they were the unanticipated shot in the leg the athleisure faithful never knew they needed, a 1990s throwback that was less Saved by the Bell, more, well, Chanel. The conclusion: turns out cycling shorts look surprisingly chic when paired with barely-there sandals and one-size-up tailoring.
This season, Wardrobe NYC’s are the shorts to covet. Founded in 2017 by stylist Christine Centenera and the Australian designer Josh Goot, the label proposes a concise, sports-influenced offering of high-quality basics – a black blazer, a white T-shirt, black leggings – available in capsule edits of four or eight pieces (none of the items are available to purchase individually). The prized item? The black bike shorts, which Centenera wore all over town this past summer, styled with a black blazer. “I like the silhouette they create,” she emails from New York. “It feels fresh to me.” Her friends Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine Cohen agree, wearing the cult shorts with a crew-neck black sweater and pointed ankle boots (Gigi), a crop top and white trainers (Kylie), and an oversized sweater, a straw bag and ballet pumps (Leandra).
Bradley Wiggins need not apply. But should you? Could you? According to influencer Camille Charrière, who’s been ambling about Notting Hill in a pair of Burberry cycling shorts, they are surprisingly accessible. “They have a retro feel that is very fun. I’ve been wearing mine with a belted blazer and kitten heels,” she says. “Worn with a baggy top or a cinched waist and the right shoes, they could work on 99 per cent of people – but only if you feel comfortable.” She counsels caution on the topic of fit. “Too tight or too baggy and they look very wrong.” As for the reaction? “My Burberry ones feature in one of my most-liked posts of 2018.” Good luck.